Wednesday 26th August 2020
It’s a good job that I took a load of photos for The Climb when I went to Uffington the other week. I’m writing this several days on and haven’t even thought about taking a daily photo.
Today was quite traumatic, and ended up with a loved one in a serious burns unit.
Everything started so innocently. While I was working from home, he popped round to borrow my saw. He’d had a small tree blow over in the gales earlier in the week and wanted to chop it up and burn it. By the time I’d got round later, there was a small pile amassed on the front lawn ready to be burnt.
He also wanted to mow his garden and so we went to the petrol station to get some fuel for his mower. And here is the ironic part: I told him that if he’d been handling petrol to wash his hands before going to deal with the bonfire because you hear these stories of people catching alight from petrol fumes.
So we got back to his and he did so. He told me to keep out the way as he didn’t want me or the pets in the way if he was lighting a bonfire. I went into the lounge and looked on my phone. He came in once asking for newspaper to start it (like I’d have any) and then went back out.
The next part will haunt me.
I hear a whoosh and a scream. I look left, out the front window. I know where the bonfire is and where I expect to see flame. Except it’s not there. It’s Craig, and he’s on fire. Like engulfed.
The scream is like nothing I’ve ever heard. Forget the sight for a moment, there’s a scream people on fire make and I can only describe it as a scream of death.
I was quick. As soon as I saw it, I was up and to the door. I’m good in a crisis. I fall apart afterwards. Coming out his lounge I have to do a 180 degree turn to get out his front door and I remember my feet almost comically slipping as I launched myself out that door.
I fully expected him to be a burning mess on the ground. Given the amount of fire, there was a small part of my head that was expecting him to be dead. But he was up and walking.
In those 2 seconds it took me to get to the front door, he’d got his T-shirt off and met me at the front door. His hair was still alight, and I patted it out with my bare hands. It melted my watch and whilst I had funny burn-like sensations in my hands all evening, there were no burns.
He didn’t need any encouragement but we got him out the back, and under the hosepipe. Whilst he was stood there, I ran back out the front.
His T-Shirt was on fire on the path where he’d thrown it. The flames were several foot high as if it had been doused in something. On the garden was the bonfire, unlit, and then two fires. One of these was the petrol container from earlier. It was on its side and burning at the lip. My immediate thought was that if that all ignited it could set fire to the house.
So I ran back and started filling up a bucket. Craig shouted at me as it reduced the pressure in the hose. I could see skin starting to peel off him now. His brow and forearm had clumps of saggy skin.
“Call an ambulance” he mouthed, continuing to stay calm and do everything right.
So I was onto 999 whilst trying to put out the fire in the front garden, and check on him in the back garden (Shock and adrenaline will carry people beyond their abilities only so far – so I was mentally prepared for him to faint or rapidly deteriorate)
Neighbours had now ventured out, and so I asked one if they could co-ordinate the fire at the front of the house while I checked on Craig. The 999 operator said they’d sent the fire brigade as well.
Everything the operator told us to do we were already doing. Obviously, the thing was I worried about was any sudden change in condition.
The ambulance got here quick. 999 had told us to put him under the water for 10 mins, and before that time had elapsed, the ambulance was here. Craig paced out and straight into the ambulance. Neighbours had put out the fire now. The fire brigade turned up shortly afterwards and gave it a good douse.
Craig was in the ambulance for 45 mins. They were checking the extent of his burns and called out the rapid response unit who arrived some 10 minutes later. They debated airlifting him.
At this stage I wasn’t as worried. Obviously people can deteriorate but my gut told me the threat to life had passed. I was still running on adrenaline. I managed to find his phone and get it to him because I was told that the burns unit they were taking him to didn’t allow any visitors. I would have gone with him I could have, but with all the pets it was probably best I stayed. It gave me something to do.
I got in touch with family and they came over as we waited for news. In my mind I was very much of the view that whatever the extent of his injuries he’d live – which given what I’d seen when he’d gone up was a massive improvement.
We got a call about 1am, from Craig himself. He was high on morphine and only had a little battery. But he was alive and in the right place.
I knew the one thing he’d worry about was his pets so I said I’d stay at his and look after them. They seemed fine but one cat disappeared until family members came over and seemed a bit traumatised.
I’m not sure if the task of looking after the pets is helping but I feel remarkably OK given what I’ve seen. I feel level-headed and practical. The expected falling apart has yet to happen. Maybe that’s because in replaying it back I feel we did everything right. He got his t-shirt off, we got the flames out and him under water. The ambulance was here straight away. Other than it not happening, in replaying it over and over in my head, I’m not finding anything where I’m wishing I did anything different.
Friends have been great. Upon hearing, they’re checking in on me. I’m OK, and I hope I continue to be, but I saw something incredibly traumatic today, and I need to engage some self-care.
At least the pets will keep me busy.
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